Book Review: Autopsy of a Deceased Church

Posted on Posted in leadership, reviews

autopsyThom Rainer’s Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive (based on this post from his blog) is a short but penetrating look at the symptoms indicating a sick church community.

The book is based on interviews Rainer conducted with representatives from 12 closed churches. Through these interviews he identified various patterns and symptoms of dying churches: lack of evangelization, a failure to budget for mission, no communal prayer, etc.

Rainer’s purpose is not just to depress us, though. As he states in the outset, his hope is that this “autopsy” will help others to identify symptoms of an unhealthy church before it becomes a crisis. To that end he includes reflection questions at the end of each chapter to help church leaders discern the “vital signs” of their communities.

The book ends with suggestions for churches in various stages of decline. Rainer does not mince words. He advocates for drastic changes in drastic circumstances, something many communities will resist. But Rainer is not concerned with comfort; he is concerned with churches communicating the Gospel effectively.

A quick note to Catholic readers: while Rainer is Baptist and some of the examples in the book have a decidedly Protestant bent, the symptoms and suggestions identified by him are just as applicable to Catholic parishes. Any diocesan or parish leader interested in healthy parish communities would do well to read and reflect on Rainer’s work.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Autopsy of a Deceased Church

  1. This looks fascinating! I can’t wait to read it. We really need to look at stuff like this instead of guessing, doing nothing and complaining, or just burying our heads in the sand and hoping for the best. Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. I haven’t read this book yet, but Rainer’s work is great. He’s blunt and too the point–anyone can read his books without being immersed in academic theology or management theory–which is a real need for parishes, parish councils, etc. His earlier work, “Simple Church:Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples” was really a game changer in how I thought about what parish life could/should be. I think most of the time, he’s spot on with recommendations.

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